Alzheimer’s is a Lifestyle Disease

Risk for Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most dreaded ailments. It robs us of the memories of our life’s joys, accomplishments, hurts, and lessons learned—the very things that make up the essence of who we are. When our memory is damaged by Alzheimer’s, it diminishes our ability to make sense of the world, creates a disconnect with loved ones, hijacks our independence, and ultimately steals our life. It’s utterly heartbreaking.

Many people believe Alzheimer’s disease is inevitable or that it strikes randomly without warning. It’s common for medical professionals to tell their patients who are complaining about forgetfulness that age-related memory loss is normal. And the vast majority of us believe there is nothing we can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or to stop it from deteriorating further.

That’s wrong!

The truth is, Alzheimer’s is a lifestyle disease—similar to heart disease or type 2 diabetes—and your everyday habits contribute greatly to your level of risk. New research confirms this.

The truth is, Alzheimer’s is a lifestyle disease—similar to heart disease and type 2 diabetes—and your everyday habits contribute greatly to your level of risk. Click To Tweet

11 Lifestyle Factors that Increase the Risk for Alzheimer’s

Currently, over 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to triple by 2050. If you don’t want to be one of them, you need to know the 11 major risk factors of memory loss. The lifestyle factors that contribute to a heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease can be summed up with the mnemonic BRIGHT MINDS. Here’s what each letter stands for.

B is for blood flow problems.

Healthy blood flow is essential for a good memory. The brain SPECT imaging work at Amen Clinics shows that low blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor of Alzheimer’s.

R is for retirement and aging.

Advancing age is the strongest risk factor for memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Brain SPECT imaging shows that the activity in the brain generally decreases with age.

I is for Inflammation.

Smoking, eating a high-sugar diet, and carrying excess body fat are associated with chronic inflammation that can harm the brain and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

G is for genetics.

Having first-degree family members with Alzheimer’s can be a sign that you need to make serious lifestyle changes to protect your memory.

H is for head trauma.

Several studies show a link between traumatic brain injuries or repeated mild head trauma (like repetitive helmet-to-helmet tackles in football) and the risk for dementia.

T is for toxins.

Toxic substances, such as air pollution, cigarette smoke, alcohol, and drugs are associated with memory issues.

M is for mental health problems.

A wealth of research has shown that untreated depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic stress, and ADD/ADHD significantly increase the risk of memory problems. (See below for new research on the ADHD connection to Alzheimer’s.)

I is for immune system problems and infections.

In a 2016 editorial in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 33 scientists expressed concern that infectious diseases were being overlooked as a major cause of memory problems and dementia.

N is for neurohormone problems.

When hormones are out of balance, it creates an increased risk for illness, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more.

D is for diabesity.

The unhealthy combination of obesity and diabetes seriously impacts brain health and memory. Research in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has linked abnormal insulin levels, which are a hallmark of diabetes, to Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.  The correlation is so strong, some scientists have labeled Alzheimer’s “type 3 diabetes.

S is for sleep issues.

A growing body of research links sleep problems, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, to a higher risk of memory problems and dementia.

The Link Between ADHD and Alzheimer’s Disease

As mentioned above, mental health issues increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. New research sheds light on the link between ADHD and the disease. A 2021 multi-generational study out of Sweden shows that the grandparents and parents of those with ADHD are more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease compared with older people who have no ADHD relatives. And the increase in risk is substantial. Parents of a child with ADHD have a 55% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and grandparents of ADHD kids have an 11% increased risk of the disease.

The study doesn’t show that ADHD causes Alzheimer’s. However, it’s important to look at how ADHD makes people more vulnerable to lifestyle risk factors for memory loss. Many of the symptoms of ADHD—including short attention span, impulsivity, distractibility, disorganization, and procrastination—lead to poor decision-making and increase the vulnerability to lifestyle risk factors for memory issues.

People with ADHD are at greater risk for traumatic brain injuries, obesity, substance abuse, and smoking. In turn, these lifestyle factors increase the chances of developing some form of dementia.

Know the Side Effects of Not Treating Mental Illness

Some people are wary of treating psychiatric issues with medication due to possible side effects. This is a valid concern, and it’s generally a good idea to try the least toxic, most effective solutions for any mental health problem. However, it’s equally important to understand that not treating mental illness also comes with side effects. In some cases, those potential side effects include an increased risk for memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. That is too high a price to pay.

Memory loss, ADD/ADHD, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

24 Comments »

  1. Could you please tell me if you have this in England

    Comment by Benita Shelley — November 10, 2021 @ 3:09 AM

  2. Thank you for the information about Alzheimer’s . What are the steps for me to take on a daily basis for Brain health? I can’t come to your clinic for a scan but want to be proactive . Appreciate any suggestions.

    Comment by Sharon — November 10, 2021 @ 4:27 AM

  3. Is there anything you can do for someone who recently had an MRI and showed atrophy in the hippocampus?

    Comment by Linda Miller — November 10, 2021 @ 5:34 AM

  4. With all your research why wont medicare cover appointments and scans

    Comment by Gretchen Goodman — November 10, 2021 @ 5:51 AM

  5. Hi what are the costs involved in getting a brain scan? I have been following Dr Amen for years and would love to come to your NY clinic sometime next year

    Comment by Doreen Holstein — November 10, 2021 @ 6:54 AM

  6. Is it too late for people in their seventies to try to incorporate lifestyle changes to at least mediate Alzheimer’s effects?

    Comment by Kathy Chavez — November 10, 2021 @ 7:47 AM

  7. Dental health is a big factor in brain function.

    Comment by Lisa Mullikin — November 10, 2021 @ 8:03 AM

  8. Thanks so much for the terrific synopsis!

    Comment by Nancy London — November 10, 2021 @ 8:09 AM

  9. Where is the science in your claim. My husband who scrupulously attended to all the “risk factors” you listed died
    Of Alzheimers or lewey body dementia. He was rigorous about life style behaviors, was not Overweight and did not have diabetes. He used a strong regime of exercise supplements mental activity.

    Comment by Ruth — November 10, 2021 @ 8:19 AM

  10. I agree with everything you wrote, but you failed to mention learning new things and engaging with others in the process of developing these new skills. Examples are learning a new language, a new sport, new games, new dances, and other new hobbies. Of course, if one smokes, drinks heavily, takes illegal drugs, or splurges on unhealthy foods, the benefit of new learning will be greatly reduced or nullified.

    Comment by Michael Janko — November 10, 2021 @ 9:13 AM

  11. I believe that if there’s a history of Alzheimer’s in the family, there’s a very high chance it’ll happen to the next generation will get it. I’m speaking from experience .

    Comment by Linzie Cobain — November 10, 2021 @ 9:15 AM

  12. Okay so we do brain scan and find issues. What can be done?

    Comment by Sima t Bakva — November 10, 2021 @ 10:04 AM

  13. I have gone to Amen clinic in Reston Virginia—but they saw Alzheimer’s on my scan & I don’t know what to do now?

    Comment by Ann — November 10, 2021 @ 10:44 AM

  14. We are sorry to hear of your struggles and would love to connect with you. Please share your contact information via email to restonpcc@amenclinic.com or please call 703-880-4000 and ask to speak with our Clinic Director, Isma, who is looking forward to hearing from you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 10, 2021 @ 12:26 PM

  15. For more information about our treatments and services, please visit https://www.amenclinics.com/services/. For more information, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 10, 2021 @ 7:47 PM

  16. Hello Doreen, thank you for reaching out. For more information about the costs of our evaluations and services at Amen Clinics New York, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/. We look forward to seeing you in New York soon!

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 10, 2021 @ 7:48 PM

  17. Hello Linda, thank you for reaching out. We’d love to speak with you more, please contact our Care Coordinators and we’d be happy to assist you: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 10, 2021 @ 7:48 PM

  18. Hello Sharon, thank you for reaching out. Dr. Amen has written many books, and they are a great starting point for tips and recommendations. Here is a link to all his books: https://brainmd.com/books-and-media/books. We recommend beginning with “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” or if the topic on Alzheimer’s in this blog interests you, then “Memory Rescue” would be a great start. We wish you the best of luck on your brain health journey!

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 10, 2021 @ 7:50 PM

  19. Hello Benita, at this time we have 9 locations in the U.S.: https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/. For information about how we can assist you overseas, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 10, 2021 @ 7:51 PM

  20. I had a 10 minute period of memory loss about my sibling wondering if she would be returning to work following the weekend. My sister has been retired for about 10 yrs. I lived with her for more than a yr. & she & I were together every day. My dr. referred me to a memory care neuropsychologist & a neurologist. The neurologist said I likely had temporary decreased blood flow to that memory pathway. I was told to eat a Mediterranean diet, get plenty of sleep and watch my use of anti anxiety medications. What should I do to find out what is restricting blood flow to my brain? I have lost about 25 pounds in the last 2 1/2 years and weigh about 160. Since seeing the neurologist I have stopped the keto diet I have been on for the last 2 1/2 yrs. & switched to a Mediterranean diet. I sleep from 6-7 hours a night.

    Comment by Katherine McClellan — November 11, 2021 @ 5:53 PM

  21. How do I get a visit with Dr. Amen? I been having serious memory issues for the past 4 years. For the past 15 plus years I have been taking Ambien for sleep issues. I am currently seeing a sleep specialist to help with sleep issues. I have seen other doctors in regards to my memory, but MRI ad CT scans do not show anything. My memory issues was affecting my job, so I had to take an early retirement. Please help.

    Comment by Marianne — November 15, 2021 @ 3:50 PM

  22. I was recently diagnosed with having Dementia. I am in good health except for having depression anxiety and recent diagnosis
    of Dementia. I have trouble with sleeping, even with drugs to help sleep, I have trouble getting to sleep. I am up until late lying
    wide awake and exhausted. My weight has gone down since my appetite is getting worse,, not enjoying eating. My weight is
    90;lbs. I am petite in stature, 5ft tall. I had some test done. I think it was an MRI and some Doctor tested me with questions and pictures etc. I know you are busy people, but do you think I can be helped. I am also very irritable toward my spouse who is very controlling. Thank you for reading this letter. I would not expect anything from you, I just could use some feedback as to
    what you think would help me. I will understand if you don’t reply, Dr is a very busy man.
    Thank you for your time.

    Comment by Diane Campise — November 17, 2021 @ 11:17 PM

  23. Hello Marianne, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our nine clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 19, 2021 @ 11:11 AM

  24. Hello Diane, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our nine clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — November 19, 2021 @ 11:31 AM

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